Life Will Out

by galiifreywolf [Reviews - 1]

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Author's Notes:
Cheers to the amazing people at NASA JPL who make these dreams a reality. This is a tribute to those who dare to dream.

Late one Friday afternoon in 2011, a skinny man in a suit quietly navigates the unlit halls of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and searches for the Research and Development office. A young woman stands watch while he pulls something from his pocket. The lock clicks easily, and he slips into the room.

With a knowing grin, he drops a packet of paper on the center of the desk, guaranteeing it will be seen first thing at the start of the next work week. The man silently thanks his old friend at the National Academy of Science for being willing to call in a favor and put this note on official letterhead.

It is far from an entire spacecraft proposal. Simply some intriguing data about various craters on Mars.

-:-:-


The concierge at the American Geophysical Union conference checks through the guest list for a fourth time. The late-arriving couple’s names are still nowhere to be found.

But who is he to argue with the lead astrobiology scientists from the European Space Agency?

-:-:-


The moderator of the Smithsonian ‘Science with a Twist’ night sighs when she sees the talkative couple approaching for yet another round of spacecraft-themed cocktails.

Frankly, she is still shocked that the pair was not thrown out hours ago for giggling and telling each other odd jokes throughout the planetarium shows. All four of them.

-:-:-


A commotion overhead in the glass viewing platform forces the technicians to look away from their stressful task of installing the final nuts and bolts on a spacecraft’s massive robotic arm. Above the cleanroom, an overly-animated man gestures excitedly between the blonde woman beside him and down at the nearly-finished vehicle .

After several minutes and all other options exhausted, the security guard practically hoists the man over his shoulder to toss him out the the door of the observatory, much to the woman's apparent amusement.

“Damn tourists,” one engineer mutters before returning to work.

-:-:-


On the sloping, shrub-covered hills of Pasadena, rough metallic wheels kick dust into the air, and cheers echo against the hot canyon walls. For most people, it is just another 9-to-5 Thursday in the Los Angeles metro. But for those few who have kept their eyes pointed to the heavens, it's a moment in history.

The newest Mars Rover has just taken her first steps.

In the days to come, the pioneers of the galaxy make a pilgrimage to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory - to marvel at the progress, to share the excitement of humanity's next steps into the stars. Some shed a tear, at the prospective future that lies ahead. Some come to see their first glimpse of any such technology, and start a new dream for their own future. Some feign professionalism, but crack a smile when the robot chirps and whirs, overjoyed to be examining the dirt.

Others ask the tour guide incessant questions about minerals and bacteria that nobody else has ever heard of.

After all, none of them have been named yet, not in 2017.

-:-:-


“Perseverance. It’ll be named Perseverance,” the waitress overhears as she passes by a table in the far corner of the tiki bar. She has worked here long enough to know it is not uncommon for engineers and scientists to stop for an evening drink on the coast of Cape Canaveral and continue their work conversations. It is uncommon to overhear something so sentimental about a project that is yet to launch.

She wonders what Perseverance might refer to, and resolves to linger near this table as much as she can during the rest of her shift.

“You humans. Always holding onto the bravest of aspirations. Perseverance,” the man lets the name roll off his tongue again with such reverence that the waitress shivers. “Persistence in the face of difficulty or delay, yet still achieving success. Little Alex will say it best when he chooses the name next year, at only age twelve. That it’s more than your spirit or your curiosity. The human race is nothing if not tenacious and full of hope for a brighter future.”

The strange man turns to watch the sun shimmer and fade behind the sherbet-colored stacks of storm clouds along the ocean skyline, his rueful smile making him appear far older than he is.

“Despite the minefield of events ahead, you all still achieve more than you should have, by all rights. Your twenty-first century team would put half the Time Lord Academy to shame.”

Just another sci-fi geek then, the waitress muses as she carries on to the next table, curiosity sated.

-:-:-


“And another successful launch from United Launch Alliance, not an anomaly in sight. A gorgeous day on the Space Coast. In more unusual news though, it seems there has been a minor security breach at the Vehicle Assembly Building. NASA security informs me that two people somehow managed to not only get away from their tour group, but made it all the way to the roof of the 60-story building to watch the launch!”

-:-:-


The lead systems engineer tugs at the nose of her face mask to seat it more comfortably. She is grateful that the room is sparsely populated by now; only the most crucial experts in the field remain. Beside her, the English planetary geology expert sits at the edge of his seat, figure taut as a drawn bow. Even from six feet away, she can feel the excitement clenched in his tense shoulders.

After all this time, success is merely meters away.

On the other side of glass, Mission Control erupts into cheers and tears of joy, hugging each other despite the risk.

Perseverance has landed safely on her new home.

-:-:-


In a few frames of Perseverance’s most recent surveillance video, a robotics technician notices something out of the ordinary. He steers the camera back a little as Perseverance crawls across the landscape, enough just to catch a few pixels of deep blue wood. He figures it’s exhaustion, that working the night shift must be getting to his head.

Until his teammate sees the same thing from a different angle the next morning.

The team never does puzzle out what they saw that day, but a directive from an agency even higher than NASA insists they cut those few frames out of the video before uploading anything to the public archive.

-:-:-


“And if you look… just there,” the Doctor points carefully so Rose can look over his arm, “that scoop of sand she just picked up contains the fossils of ancient Martian bacterium. The mighty Earth’s first contact. Hah!”

“You mean - you mean it was all worth it, we actually managed to find something in my lifetime?” Rose asks quietly, all of her excitement contained in a barely-there breath.

“Oh Rose, it’s always worth it. In the face of the worst of hardships and the darkest times - those are the times most worth pulling together and fighting for something incredible.”

Rose tears her eyes away from the rover trekking slowly over the burnt red earth and looks up at the Doctor, her heart melting at the pride and joy painted clearly across his face. The faint white glow of the sun is just beginning to fade into pale blue night, and she is content to wrap her arms around his waist and quietly watch history unfold.